How large is your personal space? Are you comfortable with people standing close to you?
In this, I have to admit that I am like Genevieve (the autistic main character of my books – in case you didn’t know. ). I don’t like people invading my personal space. Being in public places makes this a wee bit difficult of course. How do I avoid touching or being touched by the person next to me in the plane? Or on the train?
Just writing this makes me cringe. I learned to compartmentalise at a very young age. I am quite successful at turning my mind away from things that I don’t want to, or in this case cannot afford to, focus on. I don’t have a fear of small spaces. Nope, it’s rather a powerful dislike of too many people, bodies touching me… just think of a shopping mall on a Saturday – that’s my worst nightmare! All those people brushing past me. Urgh. Most of the times I manage to avoid shopping malls at the weekends. But if I have to go, I turn my senses inward to not have the acute awareness of the crowd moving around me.
Westernised people have average ‘zones’ to their personal spaces. Of course these are influence by many factors (family size, house/flat size, personality type, culture, etc., etc.), but let’s work on averages here.
- The Intimate Zone: 14-45 centimetres (Genevieve’s is 50cm). Only those with whom we are emotionally intimate are allowed to enter this zone.
- The Personal Zone: 46cm- 1.22m. This is at social functions the ideal distance to be observed.
- The Social Zone: 1.22-3.6m. This is for people we don’t know so well – plumbers, shop assistants, (my dentist if I could).
- The Public Zone: 3.6m. This would be ideal for me in a shopping mall on Saturdays.
Interesting little titbit: Spaces decrease between two women and increase between two men (those territorial cavemen!!)
What is your personal space like? Are you uncomfortable with people too close or do you not even notice?